PHOENIX -- As Arizona students head back to class this year, they'll find themselves facing new Common Core standards.
All but four states have adopted the more rigorous Common Core standards that stress the importance of real life applications.
"Common Core provides clear expectations for what our students need to be ready for college and careers," says Dr. Nicolle Karantinos, Director of Curriculum for the Chandler Unified School District.
She admits the new Math and Language Arts standards are tough. "It's more investigative, and it's more complex," she says.
Arizona adopted the more rigorous Common Core standards in 2010, which prompted districts to begin making changes. The standards are considered a radical shift in teaching that focuses more on critical skills.
"They're internationally bench-marked, which we love, because we can compare our students to other students in other states and globally," says Karantinos. She acknowledges that the new standards will be a shock to the system.
"Really, students who exceeded in the past on AIMS will just be proficient in the new assessment," she says.
But the goal, of course, is to make students more than proficient when the new PARCC Assessment Test replaces AIMS testing altogether in 2015.
"Our goal is to make sure every one of our students could compete with anyone else throughout the world."
Kindergarten through third grade teachers began implementing Common Core last year. "We know what the data shows us, as far as the increased rigor and where we need to go," she says. "We've been working on this for probably the last five years."
Chandler Unified teachers have more than 90 hours of intensive professional development. But there is still more to be done.
"It's a competitive environment for our students," says Karantinos. "We want to make sure they are well prepared."
Everyone agrees our students need to be better prepared for the real world. But not everyone agrees the Common Core Standards are the answer.
"We don't know where we are going with Common Core," says Wesley Harris with Arizonans Against Common Core.
His group is opposed to the new English, Language Arts and Math standards. "This is the federal takeover of the education system," Harris says.
The standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. "In essence, what we've seen is an erosion of our local influence by the federal government," says Harris.
But in fact, there is no federal law or regulation requiring the adoption of Common Core standards. Our state chose to adopt the standards, and those standards were created by teachers, content experts and business leaders.
Dr. Karantinos says people need to understand that Common Core is not a curriculum. "We have local control as far as how we teach those standards," Karantinos says. "It's all about application that relates directly to the real world. We want every student who walks out of our schools to be ready for whatever career they choose, whatever college they choose."
Critics acknowledge that Arizona has to do more to prepare kids to compete globally; they just don't believe Common Core Standards are the answer.
"The Board of Education supposed to hold extensive public hearings and have a cost impact study," says Harris. "The fact of the matter is no one knows what Common Core will cost."
The truth is, the teacher training and the assessment test that go along with the Common Core standards aren't cheap. There is some grant money, but that funding can often fall short.
To see a comparison between AIMS and the new PARCC tests, visit this website.
And you can find out more information about Arizonans Against Common Core on their website.